Brittney Moses recently found out that college isn’t as expensive as she thought. With the help of a new tool Virginia Tech has to offer, incoming students may have the same realization.
The net price calculator, which is available on Tech’s website, helps students figure out accurate estimates of their cost of attendance at the university.
Moses initially looked at similar estimates on college websites, adding money to those numbers for personal expenses. But to her surprise, the extra costs were significantly less.
“The daily costs aren’t what (the other websites) said they were,” Moses, a freshman human development major, said. “Everything’s either on my meal plan or included in my tuition.”
Websites like College Board state that costs of attendance are much higher than they turn out to be, which can deter students from applying to some universities.
The calculator is intended to help solve that problem.
The calculator uses a base number for the average cost of attendance at Tech, not the university bill amount, said Barry Simmons, the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid director.
As students enter more information, the number adjusts, providing them with a more personal estimate for the costs of attending Tech.
The calculator takes into account financial aid, residency, student living plans, family financial history and more to produce the estimate.
The base number consists of tuition and fees, a room and board charge regardless of whether a student is on campus, and various allowances for travel and personal expenses. An extra expense for computer and software fees is factored in for first-year students. And finally, the net price is calculated by subtracting estimated financial aid awards.
Before financial aid estimates are taken into account, the average cost of attendance for in-state students is about $22,000 per year, a number produced from the calculator.
Tech implemented the calculator as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which required colleges that participate in Title IV federal student aid programs to have their own calculators by Oct. 29, according to the Institute of Education Sciences website.
Tech launched its calculator on Oct. 26, according to the financial aid office.
However, Simmons said this is not the final solution to financial aid issues.
"This is a consumer movement long in the making to make the issue of college choosing more transparent,” Simmons said. “Unfortunately because of the variability, between the way colleges do things and between the way people understand the college process, the whole effort is amiable but is rife with particular problems."
The net price, he said, is more than the university bill students will pay, regardless of financial aid, because of extra costs for personal expenses.
Extra costs can sometimes scare parents and students because of the sudden jump in cost, especially for incoming freshmen.
“A lot of people, when they see the words 'net price,' jump to thinking, 'That's what my bill's going to be,’ and that's not the case,” Simmons said. “If we can get the right understanding of the terminology, that's good. I'm all for being transparent. There are instances were institutions are not as forthcoming or transparent as they should be in letting students know what their financial aid is going to be."
Shelley Blumenthal, a guidance counselor at Blacksburg High School, said she likes that the calculator includes extra costs because it provides a more accurate estimate for the amount students will pay when attending Tech.
“I like the fact that you can plug something in and get an early read on what possible costs are going to have to be taken into account,” he said. “I see it as being a very positive thing because one of the things that used to happen that students and parents would just see the sticker cost and didn't look beyond to see the net cost after financial aid."
Blumenthal has already been encouraging students to use the calculator. He also plans to introduce it at various college nights and financial aid workshops throughout the year.
To find the calculator, visit the Tech cost of attendance webpage at admiss.vt.edu/cost.php, and click the “Net Price Calculator” header on the right hand side.